Morning comes, the alarm wakes her from a restful sleep. She stirs in her bed, presses the snooze and snuggles in a for a few more moments of quiet and relaxation. She gets up and heads to a refreshing shower. The water on her face wakes her and she’s ready to take on this beautiful day. Her coffee brews while she cuts some fresh fruit for breakfast. A little yogurt, a touch of cream in her coffee and off she goes.
On her drive to work she listens to NPR for a while to catch up on the world’s events, then switches to music for a bit – pop, oldies, classic rock…perhaps the classical station today. The music keeps her mood elevated and happy.
Morning comes after another restless night. There is no alarm needed. Sleep only comes in short spurts anyway. Her mind stirs in the night – imagining things that might come to be, remembering things from years gone by. None of it matters in the night, she knows that. She works to calm her thoughts, to push them away. She is tired. She drags herself out of bed to the shower hoping it will wake her enough to get through the day. The rhythmic sound of the water makes it easy for her mind to wander back to unpleasant thoughts. Little sleep and the constant babble of the shower pound in her head as her worst memories flood her conscious thoughts. Stop! She talks to her own mind as if it were a alien living in her body. Sometimes it feels like it is. There is a part of her that stays rational, reminding the distraught parts of her that the thoughts and fears aren’t real. But, it doesn’t matter. The panic attack has taken over. She can’t breathe, her legs tremble, the water from the shower feels like a thousand needles stabbing at her skin, reminding her that she is not okay. She collapses on the shower floor. You’re okay. She breathes shallow and quick. Slow your breath. The tears come uncontrollably. You are bigger than this. After what feels like an eternity the attack finally passes. She gathers herself from the bottom of the tub, standing slowly, drained. She wraps herself in a towel and slowly walks to the kitchen. She knows good food will help her, but she is exhausted from fighting all night, from fighting her own mind in the shower. She stands in the middle of the kitchen unable to focus enough to know how to make breakfast for herself. She eats a cookie left over from a birthday party.
She takes a deep breath as she gets in the car to go to work, shaking the troubling thoughts from her brain. News radio is on. There’s been another shooting. Her heart sinks, her eyes fill with tears. Her mind races to figure out how she can help. How did we get here as a nation? It can’t always be like this. How is there so much hate in the world? It’s too much. She turns the radio off. She can’t listen to more bad news, upbeat songs sound inappropriate now. There is silence. Except for the roar of stories in her mind.
There is a lot to accomplish at work today. She looks at her list of tasks and starts checking them off as she completes them. She misspelled something in an email and laughs with a coworker about it. She has lunch with friends. She tackles a big project in the afternoon. By the end of the day, she feels accomplished and satisfied. She’s ready to go have fun with friends and listen to some music after work.
There is so much to be done at work today. She is still tired from her challenging morning. She feels overwhelmed by her ‘to-do’ list. She struggles though task after task. She’s sends an email to the wrong person and the thought of it weaves its destructive ways into other parts of her day. She has lunch alone, trying to catch up on all the work that she wasn’t able to complete in the morning. She starts another big project in the afternoon. She now has several projects started, none ever getting closer to completion. The day ends and she knows she didn’t do enough. She looks at her ever growing to-do list and resigns herself to another night of working from home. She goes home and talks to no one. She barely has the energy to make dinner.
Her housework is all caught up and she has time to redecorate a reading nook with fanciful curtains and colorful pillows. Friends call her on the weekend for some last minute fun at a festival and she gleefully gets ready for a new adventure.
The weekend is spent trying to quiet her fears enough to get housework done. The laundry piles up, the dishes fill the sink, the very thought of the grocery store is too much to take – the people, the noise, too many choices. A friend calls to invite her out for dinner and she says she’s busy. It’s easier than explaining the panic attack she feels looming just under the surface – the one she is sure will come out in full force in the middle of a crowded restaurant. She’ll have take out alone.
She throws herself at life; taking a drive to a different town, trying a new coffee shop, visiting a museum on her own. She playfully wonders at all the adventure life has to offer.
She stays home whenever she can. She hides from life, even drawing her curtains closed as much as possible. She watches the world happen around her, sometimes wishing she could be a part of it, but feeling paralyzingly frightened of it at the same time.
She is strong and fragile. She is self-reliant and dependent. She is confident and scared. Her life is a mix of all these things. She is always fighting against her own body and mind to stay in control. That is a tiresome effort. And some days the fatigue wins. If you find her on a day she’s struggling – be gentle, be kind, and let her be the jumble of chaos and confusion that she is at that moment. If you find her on a day she’s tenacious – enjoy her spirit and celebrate life with her. But remember this is fleeting for her. Remember that she is always fighting.
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